By Franco Terrazzano
and Kevin Lacey
Canadian Taxpayers Federation
Here we go again.
Ottawa’s budget watchdog is on the trail of another big taxpayer boondoggle in the making with the federal government’s latest gun policy.
First, a Liberal government introduced the gun registry in the 1990s. That was supposed to cost $2 million, but, by the time it was abolished in 2012, the tally was over $2 billion. Despite the heavy price tag, the gun registry was notoriously ineffective at limiting guns in the hands of criminals.
The latest attempt at gun control, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new gun buyback law, will likely cost at least hundreds of millions more than expected but won’t improve public safety.
During the federal election of 2019, Trudeau committed to cracking down on gun crime after a spate of brazen shootings that summer. Toronto Mayor John Tory called on the federal government to do something to end the gun violence in his city.
Trudeau’s proposal seemed simple enough – ban certain types of firearms, then use tax dollars to reimburse gun owners for giving them up.
When the Liberal Party announced this policy, it told voters the gun buyback would cost about $200 million. But, in 2021, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the costs would land “somewhere between $300 and $400 million.”
Now, the government’s independent budget watchdog, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, says the cost to reimburse gun owners could balloon up to $756 million. But that’s not the full costs. The PBO couldn’t provide an estimate of the staffing and administration costs because of “the current lack of details regarding program design and administration.”
We’re coming up on two years since the Liberals first promised the gun buyback and there’s still no one in government who has any idea on how much this program will actually cost.
That’s important because reimbursements may represent only a drop in the bucket of total costs.
“Focusing on reimbursement costs is misleading because it ignores the biggest expense —staffing costs,” wrote Gary Mauser, a Professor Emeritus at Simon Fraser University, in his analysis of the policy.
Mauser estimated that administration and staffing costs could add billions of dollars to the total taxpayer tab.
Here’s the kicker: despite a massive bill, Trudeau’s gun buyback will be ineffective.
Let’s face it; criminals will not start walking into government offices to hand over their firearms. Gun violence isn’t going to end. Those using firearms for violent offences will still have them.
Trudeau’s gun grab only targets legally owned firearms.
This is a point stressed by the National Police Federation, which is Canada’s largest police union.
The NPF said Trudeau’s gun grab won’t address “current and emerging themes or urgent threats to public safety,” such as criminal activity, gang violence or the flow of illegal guns across the border.
Not only will the buyback be ineffective, but it could also make things worse.
“It diverts extremely important personnel, resources, and funding away from addressing the more immediate and growing threat of criminal use of illegal firearms,” said the NPF.
Instead of spending $756 million on reimbursing legal gun owners, the government could do more for public safety by hiring 1,200 new officers for five years.
What do you think will be best for safety: a program targeting law-abiding Canadians or 1,200 more cops?
The people on the front lines say they don’t need an ineffective and expensive gun buyback program and taxpayers can’t afford another costly scheme that won’t make our lives better. Trudeau needs to reverse course and scrap his ineffective and expensive gun buyback.
Franco Terrazzano is the Federal Director, and Kevin Lacey is the Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
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